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Trip Report - Bangkok and Phuket 7/31/05 - 8/8/05

Trip Report - Bangkok and Phuket 7/31/05 - 8/8/05

Aug 10th, 2005, 05:25 AM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Wonderful report -- thanks! I wish I didn't have to wait 5 months to see Ratt again and be back in Bangkok!
glorialf is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 05:45 AM
  #42  
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Yes, Craig, taxis where the bain of my Bangkok experience but we survived just fine. Even when they cheat you, it's still cheaper than anything you could hope to find at home, which is probably why they think they can cheat you I'm just not very patient with that kind of thing. I'd rather they go straight to the destination and then give them a tip for their honesty. My more patient hunsband wasn't as frustrated as I was; he just looked out the window and enjoyed the scenery.

Carol, at Bed, it was indeed a "surprise menu" night as it was Friday. I believe they always do this on the weekends. They did ask us if there was anything we couldn't eat however. And Cruisin, thanks for reminding me, at Bed for the set "surprise" 4-course de-lish menu, two glasses of their cheaper champagne, and a bottle of Pelligrino our total came to 3650B. Not bad at all.

And Carol, on the Pen Lounge, I have no idea if it was new or not. This was our first time to the Pen and to Bangkok but both Ratt and the cooking school we signed up with advised us to meet them there so I imagine it couldn't be TOO new. It's essentially a small lounge with some chairs in the waiting area, a desk for the Peninsula employee who works inside and that's about it (there's 3 guys who man the Lounge I think: the guy inside, a doorman and the guy who stands at the Pier). You essentially get off the boat, walk up the ramp into the Lounge and out the other door to the street. The little bit of landscaping between the pier and the Lounge was nice and seemed very consistent with the Pen. It was just South of the Oriental pier. You could literally throw a rock from the Oriental pier if you had a good arm to the Pen Lounge pier it was so close. Looking at the map, the Pen Lounge Pier looks like it would be between the Oriental and the Shangri-La.

A-ha! From the Pen's own website:
For guests' ultimate convenience, the hotel provides an exclusive lounge facility, The Peninsula Pier, which is located on the opposite river bank from the hotel and is just minutes away by the hotel's private river shuttle boats. The hotel's private river shuttle boats also make regular trips from the hotel pier to the Taksin Pier, also just minutes away, which is directly adjacent to the Saphan Taksin Station of the BTS Sky Train.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 05:50 AM
  #43  
 
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FYI- Ratt asks you to meet her there sometimes because the traffic on the bridge at certain times is very heavy. It saves time (and you money) if you take the boat across to the Penn's lounge to meet her. When we used Ratt she met us at the hotel and we rode the boat over to the lounge and picked up her car. When we were in BKK we used just Ratt and the skytrain and avoided the taxis/tuk tuks altogether.
BillT is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 08:07 AM
  #44  
 
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The Pomelo Salad at the JT House is trly one of the delights of BKK. Glad you tried it. We had no problems with Taxis, but following Bob's advice, I was very firm. Also, I looked at a map before we took off and was familiar with the most direct route. I vocalized this several times and it was well received.
Gpanda is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 11:19 AM
  #45  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Just wanted to say thanks for the wonderful trip report. My husband and I are going to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok in November. It will be our first time in Hong Kong and Bangkok. I so appreciate how generous and detailed everyone is in sharing their experiences
kymm is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 01:40 PM
  #46  
 
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Carol, the Pen loungs is not new, it's been there for years, though I can't remember if it was there when the hotel first opened.

Sept, can't wait for your next installment. One of the best trip reports I ever read.

I'm somewhat upset about the alleged drugging of the tigers, I can't believe monks would do that. Maybe people are jumping to conclusions, perhaps the tigers are just very old and can't walk so well anymore. (I'm trying very hard to see a bright side here).
laurieco is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 02:34 PM
  #47  
 
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I guess I've just always been coming from the Saphan taksin skytrain station and have always used the pier there. Thanks for all the replies. Maybe I'll check it out next month. We still do not have our first two nights reserved, and our friend who books us into the apt hotel is not in BKK right now, and won't be there until about two days before we arrive! We may have to come up with something on our own.... LOL
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 05:05 PM
  #48  
 
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sept
Enjoying your report. We bought one of those 3000.00 tables at the Thai Royal Handicraft Center when Ratt took us there. We talked them down 1000.00 and realised after we got home we could have gotten a little more off(shipping was so cheap). We got the teak coffee table with the elephants and rainforest carved into it. Really beautiful. Sounds like you had a lot of fun...looking forward to the rest of your report.
Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 05:09 PM
  #49  
 
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Hey Sept - do you know what time the Grand Palace opens? - I noticed you did it first thing with Ratt but you only mentioned what time you woke up...
Craig is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 06:34 PM
  #50  
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Hawaiian - good to know... we'll definitely be back there. I want one of their beautiful wooden screens and my husband really liked their bars. I actually saw a little (foot tall) elephant statue while I was there that was slated to be shipped to Hawaii. I wondered if that was you

Craig - must have been 9am because met Ratt at 8:30am at the Pen Lounge and it didn't take us long to get there. When we got there, there were already groups of school kids and military cadets filing in so it might just open at 8:30am. We spent a good 1.5 - 2 hours there before going to Wat Po for a little less than an hour. Others on this board might know for sure though.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 06:59 PM
  #51  
 
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Craig-- It opened at 8:30 when I was there in December but if I recall it opens half an hour earlier during peak tourist time.
glorialf is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 07:25 PM
  #52  
 
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great report....for hong kong when you want a good italian american style dinner go to Amaroni's little italy in wan chai, #213 Queens road...we have really liked it...

what are you doing in HK for the two years? do you both work???
rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 08:46 PM
  #53  
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Thanks for the recommendation Bob! We'll definitely try Amaroni's. So far, we've found the version of Italian food here pretty lacking (relative to back home). I was jumping up and down in the aisle of the grocery store the other day because I found Newman's pasta sauce so we can make it at home. Now finger's crossed it tastes the same as back home...

I am working over here (my company made an acquisition here recently so I was shipped over for that) and my husband is taking the opportunity to go to school here full time for his MBA. We've been here almost 2 months now (well, except for our two weeks in Thailand) and really like it. The proximity to all the places you guys go is a huge bonus!
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 10th, 2005, 09:04 PM
  #54  
 
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sept
I also saw good pasta and sauces in HK at the City Super Market in the Times Square Mall right above the Causeway Bay subway stop. They sell everything there, ostrich eggs, caviar, even coconuts.
Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 04:32 AM
  #55  
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Yes! Thank goodness for City Super, Oliver's and Great. They have all the things we crave from home for triple the cost I have to admit in such a short time here, we've already become addicts.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 04:45 AM
  #56  
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Day 4, Saturday. After the previous 3 days of running around, this was our slow-paced day in Bangkok. We got up at 7am again and had room service - leisurely this time - watching the river traffic move along. Again, we took the Pen boat to the Pen Lounge to be picked up for school. Cooking school.

About 2 weeks before we left for Bangkok, I booked us a 4-hour course at the Bai Pai cooking school (www.baipai.com). I found them through others on this forum. They offered five different menus; which one you would end up cooking depending on which day you signed up for. My strategy was to find the menu I most wanted to learn and plan other activities around that, which meant we were going to school on Saturday.

I was absolutely set on Set #4, which included Gai Satay (chicken satay), Tom Yam Goong (Hot and Sour Prawn Soup), Gai Pad Med Ma-mouang (Stir-fried Chicken and Cashew Nuts), and Khao Neaw Moon (Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango). I love the hot and sour prawn soup and the coconut sticky rice dessert and well, Bob kept going on and on about the Cashew Chicken in Bangkok, I thought I had better try making it

Can I just say how much I’d recommend this if you like cooking? This was fantastic! Chris and I love to cook but are not experts so I expect this was perfect for us. There was a woman from the Netherlands who wasn’t too impressed with the class because she knew much of it anyway. Why she signed up then, I don’t know, unless she didn’t look at the menu first. Everyone else in the class was also a tourist or expat. Several of them had signed up for a full week or a couple days worth of classes. It was fun meeting the others; we had a swiss couple on a 4 month tour of Asia; a Dutch woman whose husband has a love for Thai food after having lived in Bangkok – hence her desire to cook it; an English college student visiting a Thai school friend for a month; an American woman who’s husband works for the US Embassy in Bangkok – she’s now on her last of 3 years living there.

Transportation is included in the price of the course, which is 1400B per person. And you’re fed everything you cook, which is a lot. Note that they are closed Mondays and public holidays and that you must reconfirm your reservations once you get into Thailand. Easy as pie to book online.

At the Pen Lounge, a man from the school picked us up in their van. It was like getting on the school bus on the first day of school and meeting all the other kids. Before too long, we got to school. The school itself was very cool. Open air with classroom set upstairs with three large dark-wood tables; a demonstration kitchen and cooking stations downstairs.

After quick introductions and a look at the menu we’d be cooking that morning, we took a quick trip to the local Thai market where we bought some ingredients we’d need that day. There, we learned about the various types of rice – what makes one different from the other, learned about Thai produce and spices, watched coconut cream, and then milk, being processed, and sampled a few fruits. The teachers picked up a few items and then we headed back to class.

Back at the classroom, we started the marathon learning, cooking, eating session. We sat the demonstration kitchen (set up with mirror above so you could see into the teacher’s pot) and watched as she explained and showed the process for making the dessert. We’d make it first because it would set up and chill while we made the rest. After watching her, we each made a single serving for ourselves. Then we each marked our newly marinated coconut sticky rice and passed them back to the staff to put in the refrigerator.

For the next course, we did the same thing all over again with the marinade for the chicken satays. I’ve never really liked chicken satay because I’ve always found them dry and bland. But this was incredible. We made the marinade, poured it over the chicken, made the skewers and then grilled them. The secret to keeping them moist when you grill them is to brush them with coconut milk while they’re grilling. Genius. We ate our satays (the teachers showed us how to make the accompanying sauces but we didn’t have time to make them ourselves) and then moved on to the next course.

Hot and sour prawn soup. Same thing. Watched, made, eat. And it was fabulous. We all thought that we were world-class chefs at this point. Because we each made our own single serving with our own ingredients at our own cooking stations, we could customize it the way we would at home. So Chris and I made ours super spicy while others used no chilies at all.

And then we made the Cashew Chicken. I’ve never had it before and didn’t know what to expect. We took chicken tenders, coated lightly with flour and then deep fried them to golden brown. Then we stirred fried the chicken with chili jam/paste, bell pepper, chicken broth, onion, oyster sauce, sugar, dried chilies and cashews. Oh, it was delish. We were so full at this point but then had our desserts coming. So for the cost of $33 US, we got the class with 4-course meal, hotel transfers and they print out the picture they’ve taken of you cooking as a souvenir. A great deal, I thought. I am hoping to find something like this in Hong Kong so if anyone knows of one, shout out!

With full bellies and a new skill under our belts, we were dropped back off the Pen Lounge Pier. We went to our room to drop our cookbooks and photos off. We had a message waiting from SJ International. When we called back, we learned that Ms. Wanna had made a mistake on the certificates for our jewelry… she had written .30 carats of diamonds on my ring instead of .24. They said they charged us the correct amount, however. I was a bit nervous but what’s .06 carats anyway? So we arranged to have their driver drop off my jewelry that late night at 8:30.

And then it was off to an afternoon of spa. I know many folks think that 4 hours is a lot to waste at a spa while you’re in Bangkok but I tell you, it was heaven. And it ended up being 5 hours when it was all said and done.

We called for a taxi and after the experience with Bed, we asked the doorman to make sure sure sure that this driver knew where he was going. Traffic was horrible and we were late but he didn’t seem to get lost – until he turned onto the alley where the spa is located. The Divana Spa is located on an alleyway behind a central office building called the Glass House. The driver found the alley way just fine but wouldn’t pull up to the Spa itself. And then when we tried to pay him, he seemed to have no idea what to do. He didn’t have change and couldn’t communicate with us. He looked at us blankly when we tried to hand him a 500B bill; so after a full minute of looking at each other, I just gave him the other cash I had aside from the 500B bill so ended up shorting him 20B. He didn’t seem to care. Very strange. I missed Ratt.

Once we got into the spa, however, it was like we stepped out of Bangkok altogether. A little oasis. We had booked the Spa Prestige package, which included Body Brush / Honey - aroma Cover / Herbal Steam / Body Scrub / Aloe Vera Rub / Body Mud / Body Massage / Bath / Super Detoxify Facial Massage but they had us reconfirm. The package also included lemongrass tea and fresh fruit before the treatments, between the treatments and after; it also came with an organic meal (which we substituted for a gift of fragrance oil and a ceramic aromatherapy thing). We chose the type of body scrub we wanted for body and face as well as the type of bath we wanted (we opted for the milk bath).

The double room we booked was beautiful. We walked into a large room with two padded massage tables that were bigger than we’re used to in the US. The room also had really nice calming Thai music playing, candlelight, a steam room, and traditional wooden Thai tub for our Milk Bath. The entire room was made of dark woods, which created a wonderful environment. Chris and I received our treatments next to each other but enjoyed them so much, we barely talked. If you’re a couple, this is definitely the way to go but you can’t really be modest. Your partner and your massage therapists will see you naked.

Our 5 heavenly ours at the spa, including the complimentary fruit and tea, was only $115 US per person. It would be that much for an hour message at home alone. Despite the “buts,” which you know are coming, I’d do this again in a heartbeat.

The buts: no locker room to get ready in afterwards – after our bath, we just got dressed and left; treatment rooms upstairs but bathrooms are downstairs which can get uncomfortable during 5 hours if you’re lazy like me; and getting a taxi afterwards was not easy, which make us late in getting back to the Pen to meet the jewelry delivery guy.

We called the Pen to let them know we were on our way and of course, it’s SJ so he waited in the lobby until we go there. And as soon as I put on my ring and my bracelet, I didn’t care about the .06 carat difference anymore. They were just as beautiful as I had remembered. Women are just like fish right? Attracted to the bright shiny things?

Then upstairs to our room for room service dinner while we packed up for our week in Phuket.
sept_honeymoon is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 06:50 AM
  #57  
 
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I'm glad you enjoyed your cooking class so much. I could live in a house without a kitchen so I've never signed up for a class. DH, on the other hand, would enjoy it. He likes to cook! I married the right man.. LOL
Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 09:08 AM
  #58  
 
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sounds like a nice day....BUT room service again with all those great restaurants in the hotel and within a mile....BUT.....BUT....

for other newbies on this forum....please note the issue with the 500 B note and taxis and other service groups....taxi drivers rarely have any change other than for a 100B note....make sure to always travel with 20's, 50's and some 100's when venturing out....seems so odd in a city that thrives on toursim...they just don't get it, but that is the way it is so you have to be prepared....same thing with directions and maps.....

seems like the penn does not have a cadre of "regular" taxi drivers who hang out there waiting for fares....many of the hotels do...i can't remember from my stays there...i guess we did not take taxis that often from there...

do you know in what part of bkk the cooking school is located?? i do not know the building, "glass...", that you refer to....it sure was cheap...most cooking schools are way more expensive...

was it awfully hot cooking al fresco? we took the cooking class at the anantara up north and it was in a wonderful air conditioned room, which seemed to make all the difference to me who hates the heat and especially the humidity....

do you have a recipe for the mango and sticky rice???...i got one off the internet and we tried it but it was very disappointing....if you have one could you send it to me? thanks

bob

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rhkkmk is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 09:48 AM
  #59  
 
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The reason for the scarcity of taxis at the Penn is that the bridge traffic is really bad- thats why Ratt parks her car at the Penn lounge across the river and she takes the boat across to meet you.It saves a lot of time.
BillT is offline  
Aug 11th, 2005, 10:18 AM
  #60  
 
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bill...i use that bridge all the time from the marriott and while it often is backed up it moves quite quickly i find...not at rush hours of course but the rest of the time it is not bad...maybe 3-5 minutes to get across...

rhkkmk is offline  

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